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Associations, Technology

Masonry associations have technical how-to assistance for contractors, designers

Peter Caulfield
Masonry associations have technical how-to assistance for contractors, designers

Digital technology has become more available and more widely used in the masonry industry with associations in Canada and the U.S. responding by offering technical assistance to masonry contractors, engineers and designers.

For example, the Canada Masonry Design Centre (CMDC) is a not-for-profit association created and funded by its masonry contractor members.

Brad Crumb, who is in charge of CMDC’s engineering technical resources, said the centre’s mission is to bridge the gap between the design community and the masonry construction industry.

CMDC was founded in 2003 by the respective masonry contractors associations of northern and southern Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

Since then the CMDC has grown to include the masonry contractors associations of Manitoba and British Columbia. 

Today there are CMDC offices in Mississauga, Calgary, Saskatoon and Dartmouth.

Crumb said the CMDC’s main job is to encourage the effective use of masonry through research, education and technical support.

“The CMDC is unique in that it supports the external design community as well as provide services to its contractor members,” said Crumb. “We offer expert opinion, but we don’t act as consulting engineers. We won’t stamp documents, for example.” 

The CMDC and the Canadian Concrete Masonry Producers Association have joined forces to create MASS (Masonry Analysis Structural Systems) software for masonry design engineers.

Using CSA standards, MASS analyzes and designs masonry beams, out-of-plane walls, shear walls and single-storey shear wall elevations with openings and control joints.

“MASS is very flexible,” said Crumb. “It can analyze a series of many different designs quickly and it calculates all the different design elements separately. 

“The biggest feature of the software is that it is completely transparent. It shows how it did all its calculations, as if an engineer had done the calculations by hand.”

Crumb said the most valuable benefits of MASS are that it saves time for engineers while leaving to them all the critical judgments that need to be made in a design.

MASS has about 500 users across the country.

“It’s a niche product that is based on Canadian building codes and that has been tailored for Canadian engineers,” said Crumb. “MASS 4.0 is being released this summer, and it will contain a number of new features, including earthquake design.”

Building Information Modeling for Masonry (BIM‐M) was formed in 2012 to promote and encourage masonry BIM solutions for the design and construction industry.

An American initiative, the organization also has manufacturer and contractor members in Canada.

BIM-M’s mission statement is “to unify the masonry industry and all supporting industries through encouraging the development and implementation of BIM for masonry software to facilitate smoother workflows and collaboration across all disciplines from owner, architect, engineer, manufacturer, mason, contractor, construction manager and maintenance professionals.”

According to Mark Swanson, director of industry development and technical services of BIM-M-funding-sponsor International Masonry Institute, and the organization’s spokesman, said, “BIM for masonry makes masonry more efficient and reduces its cost. Masonry can be more expensive than other materials because installation is very labour-intensive.”

BIM-M contains the Masonry Unit Database (MUD), which gives designers and BIM users standardized data for their models.

Swanson said MUD is organized to allow users to browse through a library of masonry materials.

“The database contains commonly used generic concrete masonry units and clay masonry units,” he said. “It has also been configured to include a variety of different shapes that were supplied by individual masonry manufacturers.”

MUD also contains a plug-in that makes its masonry unit library available when using Revit, a widely used BIM software.

The Alberta Masonry Council (AMC) has on its website a number of design aids for architects and engineers.

“By far our R Value calculator is the most popular design aid,” said Nicholle Miller, AMC director of marketing and communications. “It’s like a video game for calculating R Values.”

The calculator is compliant with National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings 2015

(NECB 2015).   

Because NECB 2015 has been superseded by NECB 2017, the calculator “is no longer viable for Alberta at the moment, but it is still popular, as people build out walls and such with it to get an idea of what the R Value would be and what the wall would look like,” said Miller.

AMC has added some other design aids recently:

  • Adhered stone design and mortar recommendations;
  • Thermal details for masonry; and 
  • A carbon calculator that determines how much carbon dioxide (CO2) a masonry project sequesters over its life span.

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